(299) The Housing Monster [Book review]

housing monster coverThe Housing Monster.  PM Press: Oakland, CA, USA, 2012
152 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60486-530-1

If the monster home is the thing that ate your street, well, meet the Housing Monster, it just stuffed your entire society down its throat.

Housing is a primary commodity of modern life.  We can think of living spaces as where the heart is and as a monetary investment right at the very core of how we define our communities in physical and spiritual terms.  Thing is, housing is inescapably the product of economic relationships and processes.  That usually means conflict and inequality and difficulty for many because this is a world of scarcity. There is not really enough of anything to go around, especially the surplus wealth created by a given activity.

In its 150 or so pages The Housing Monster takes a look at pretty much everything to do with keeping roofs over our heads.  The picture isn’t too pretty in this little book, full of stylish-but-grim illustrations, one per page, of the kind usually found in a graphic novel.  If you want an education in the neglected truth about housing, from the often profane and depressing lives of construction workers to the anti-social economics of lending, rental tenancy, land development, class strife, gender relations, unions then this is a very good place to start.

Produced by a small independent publisher, The Housing Monster makes concise statements, rooted in basic Marxist analysis, that deserve a much wider reading than they are likely to get.  We found a single copy of this book in a big box bookstore in Mississauga by accident.

Having lived in southern Ontario, where property development is perhaps our single largest undertaking, a transformative application of many billions of dollars worth of material and labour to thousands of square kilometers of land since 1945, we recognize most of the critique on offer to be authentic.  The urgency of this critique has only intensified since 2008.  Keeping ourselves housed has most of us in debt and drawing deeply indeed on the natural world.

The Housing Monster is intended to be a tool for going deeper than happy, aspirational surface images of the pursuit of real estate, houses, places to live, economic growth and employment.  Even if one is reflexively disinterested in anything associated with Karl Marx, there is a huge need for critical eyes and minds when it comes to housing ourselves.  Nobody can argue with that.

It may not be possible to tame the monster, but after we’ve read this one and shared it around, at least some of us will have a more honest and coherent view of reality.  Most of the people recognizable in The Housing Monster are probably too oppressed for it to make much difference to them.  After the sharp analysis comes a chapter about communal living and the spiritual aspects of waking up and doing something to respond.  I think most of us know there is something wrong, but not what to do about it.

prole.info …for the angry wage worker
at this link you can download a print quality .pdf of the book and find translations of it in more than a dozen languages